In Black Panther, the armies of Wakanda and its multiple tribes go to war for control over the nation. This is the most technologically advanced country in the world, and we're told it has weapons powerful enough to take over the entire globe. Yet the actual fighters are armed with nothing but spears -- high-tech spears, but spears nonetheless. While that's admittedly badass, it also means that even the weakest modern military could take on these guys. Most police forces could take them. A moderately well-armed farm could take them.
Then comes Infinity War, set after their country has opened up. Aliens arrive outside their domed border, and if Wakanda still hasn't invested in any kind of ranged weaponry, maybe neighboring Ethiopia, the country right outside that dome, could offer some assistance in the form of fighter jets. But no, the battle comes down once more to a whole lot of hand-to-hand. This fight features a non-super military of thousands, but we're apparently not allowed to root for them if they're armed with anything but spears.
We have a similar situation with the Amazons in Wonder Woman. I get why machine guns wouldn't suit the setting, but this is another case in which we're allowed to root for a hyper-competent army of deathbringers only if they wield tools invented 10,000 years ago. These same Amazons in Justice League fail at the one thing they've trained to do because bows aren't that powerful after all. Maybe Diana should have thought twice before killing the guy responsible for inspiring humanity's weapons development.
The Courts Aren't Defending Anyone's Rights
Thanks to Batman v. Superman and Civil War's grim retrospectives on past movies' destruction, it might seem like the citizens in these worlds are finally holding superheroes accountable. And yet they're generally held accountable for just one thing: collateral damage killing people. Death seems to be the only fear anyone has, even though there are plenty of other bad things powerful people can do. In our world, we have legal protections against those abuses. In superhero worlds, not so much.
When the Avengers first assemble and are trying to find Loki's crew and the Tesseract, Coulson says, "We're sweeping every wirelessly accessible camera on the planet. Cellphones, laptops. If it's connected to a satellite, it's eyes and ears for us." Banner suggests a narrower, more effective tracking strategy, and in the end, they find Loki easily because he wasn't exactly hiding. But the surveillance system was set up before Loki, and presumably continues afterward. No one questions its existence, not even the Avengers who got super angry about S.H.I.E.L.D. secretly making weapons.
Walt Disney Pictures
That sort of limitless mass surveillance is bad, right? We know it is, if only because when the same system appeared in The Dark Knight, they practically broke the fourth wall to speak against breaking the Fourth Amendment. But unless the system's creator is considerate enough to blow up the computers himself, it'll continue, because the superhero world has no check on that sort of thing. Does the Constitution not apply to S.H.I.E.L.D.? If a citizen discovered what they were doing, what would their legal recourse even be? S.H.I.E.L.D. is in fact brought down a couple of films later, but it's only because its own employees testify about the agency trying to actively kill millions of people. Again, people dying is the only danger superhero law wants to protect against.
You might think potential legal oversight would be irrelevant to a lot of superheroes, since they explicitly operate outside the law. And yet law enforcement work with the heroes, whether or not they admit it. The very police forces that condemn Batman, Spider-Man, or Daredevil as vigilantes dutifully arrest the people these heroes string up. That's madness. In our world, the judge would toss out the case even before the defense got the chance to point out that no matter how guilty the defendant is, procedure and rules of evidence weren't followed.
Originally, this was part of the fantasy. Superheroes can heroically bypass due process because they're right about everything. But the more superhero movies we get, the more they're willing to show the heroes being wrong. The very first crime-fighting montage we have of the latest Spider-Man shows him mistakenly webbing a guy for breaking into his own car. And then we have all the recent movies in which heroes meet for the first time and then attack each other over what turns out to be a wacky misunderstanding.
In general, it's a weird fantasy to cling to. It's like looking at police in America and saying, "You know what would help guys like this do their jobs? If they weren't accountable for their actions or methods at all."
Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for stuff cut from this article and other things no one should see.
Write your own totally competent superhero script with a beginner's guide to Celtx.
Support Cracked's journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.
For more, check out 12 Specific Scenes That Superhero Movies Have Perfected and Why 2018 Is Gonna Be The Weirdest Year For Superhero Films.
Follow us on Facebook, because you're the hero we NEED right now.